12 June 2012

Product Review: MKS Lambda/Grip King Pedals

Since January, I have been commuting on MKS Lambda pedals.  They are, of course, the pedals that Rivendell sells as its "Grip King" model.

Well, these pedals certainly live up to the moniker Rivendell gave them.  Nearly every comment I've read or heard mentioned their grippiness.  And, while nearly all of the comments were positive, a couple of cycling acquaintances warned me that they could become slippery in wet weather.  Apparently, the "cups" on the pedal collected water and made the pedal slick.

I am happy to report that I didn't experience anything of the sort--even when I got caught in a torrential downpour moments after pedaling away from the Kingsborough campus. It was the heaviest rain in which I've ridden in some time, so I feel confident that a cyclist's feet remain on the Grip King/Lambda pedal even in the worst of conditions. 

My confidence in the grip of these pedals is enhanced by the fact that I have ridden on them in Keen sandals, slingbacks with three-inch heels, LL Bean rain boots, cross-trainers and a few other kinds of shoes. In fact, I feel even more confident about the grip of these pedals than I do about the grip of rubber-block variety found on three-speeds.

About rubber-block pedals:  MKS makes what is probably the only high-quality, rebuildable version of such pedals available today.  They are also one of the last makers of good-quality traditional toe-clippable road pedals.  But, in my experience, MKS doesn't seem to regard people who want such pedals as a "captive" audience.  The company--which still makes all of its pedals in Japan--builds sturdy, well-finished pedals that are reasonably priced and lighter than some cyclists might expect. 

Lambda/Grip King shares the qualities I've just mentioned.  Mine have survived, with hardly a scratch, a couple of close encounters with curbs and a fall I took.  And, even though they are the widest pedals I've ridden in a long time, I am surprised at the amount of cornering clearance they offer.  On the other hand, they don't offer the kind of ground clearance you can get from the company's GR-9 platform pedal, or its White Industries or Lyotard counterparts.  

The Grip King/Lambda pedals also share another characteristic of MKS pedals--at least the loose-bearing models, at any rate.  Chances are, when you turn the axle on your brand-new set, it will feel a bit tight.  You might even feel a slight amount of roughness.  If you're a perfectionist, you can repack the grease or even change the bearings.  But I found that after a few rides, the bearings started to feel smoother.  Now, while not as smooth as sealed-bearing pedals, they are probably as smooth as the best ball-bearing pedals I've ridden.  

As for the bearings:  They are not cartridge bearings, which are what most people think of when they hear "sealed bearings".  However, the steel balls in the Lambda/Grip Kings seem well-protected against the elements.  So, even though I've ridden through some bad weather, and anticipate riding through some more, I anticipate riding these pedals for quite a while before I'll need to overhaul them.

I will admit that, when I start pumping or spinning at the end of a stressful day, I do miss having foot retention on these pedals.  Even though these pedals will hold your feet, you can't "pull" on the upstroke as you can with toe clips and straps or "clip-in" (what the Brits sometimes call "snap-in") pedals.  I tried installing velcro grip straps but they were too wide, and spaced too close together, to fit on the Lambda/Grip Kings.  I ruined the straps when I tried trimming them to  fit.  Maybe I'll try another pair.

Like many of you, I thought the pedals were pretty strange-looking when I first saw them.  However, when you're riding, you don't see your pedals much. Also, because they have a flat profile, they don't stand out as much on many bikes as you might expect.  They blended in surprisingly well on Vera, the bike on which I've been commuting.  That may have something to do with the Velo Orange "hammered" fenders I installed on the bike.

On the whole, I highly recommend the MKS Lambda/Grip King pedals for commuting, errands and shopping, or any other kind of cycling for which you wear ordinary shoes and don't care about speed.  The MSRP seems to be around $55; however, you can get them for around $40, or even less, from Tree Fort Bikes (which have become one of my favorite online bike retailers) and a few other places.


  1. Justine,
    Nice, practical review!
    I love the MKS Lambda pedals, which I have on my Co-Motion.
    I use shoes with stealth rubber soles, which help grip these pedals very well, even when it is slick out.
    Paz :)

    PS. Here is my review: http://greencomotion.blogspot.com/2009/08/mks-lambda-platform-pedals.html

  2. Great review. I'm getting a pair of these for Molly, she's been complaining about her pedals not being smooth and I thought I'd surprise her with a fancy upgrade. I think these will be great in the rain too, when she uses larger waterproof boots for commuting.

  3. ER--Lambdas are a nice commuting pedal. One thing I discovered, though, is they can be slippery when wet. Apparently, the "bubbles" trap moisture.

  4. If you use shoes with a very soft sole the Lambdas will hold in the rain. Stiff soled mountain biking shoes like 5-10 don't work well, use a normal shoe.

  5. Unknown--Thanks. I wasn't using stiff-soled mountain biking shoes, but I did ride with hard soles.